When Samsung came out with its Smart Signage series in early 2013 there were lots of people casting serious doubts about the notion of all-in-one pro displays going anywhere. And the combination of underpowered processors and hard to work with software didn’t help boost much confidence.
Four years on, system on chip “smart” displays have rapidly turned into a standard across most of the major display manufacturers, Sony being the exception (though they are not terribly active in the digital signage sector).
At ISE in Amsterdam this week, Sharp debuted its Android-based, Foxconn-backed smart display series and a Sharp product manager told me going forward all of its pro displays will ship with embedded devices.
You can hear from Sharp, about SoC, on this podcast:
Philips got into SoC displays a year ago at ISE and this year they’ve added a second series running Android. Philips also confirmed for me that all of its signage displays will, in the future, include SoCs, and also ship with TeamViewer – the remote access and control software – pre-installed.
Most (if not all) of Samsung’s commercial-grade displays now ship with a CPU built in. LG ships pro displays that run WebOS and Panasonic has an open Android platform for pro displays.
NEC is the only major company bucking the trend now, but only kinda sorta. It has open pluggable spec displays (meaning displays with slots for loading in a mini PC), and displays with a port in the back that accepts a Raspberry Pi single board computer – intended for use in signage and other “smart” applications. The company also has an Android-based OPS player.
I’ve had numerous chats with CEOs of signage software companies this week, and almost all of them said the processors on the newest generations of these “smart” displays are fully capable replacements for the sorts of small PCs used in most signage jobs (excluding sophisticated video walls). One said his company has tested SoC panels against PCs and in some cases, found the SoC panels had superior playback performance.
I’ve also asked about failure rates, and been told, at least, it’s rare when these things konk out in the field. One of the worries out there has been that if an SoC failed, the whole display needed to sent back to a depot or replaced, whereas replacing an external player doesn’t affect the display.
The other thing I’m hearing is that the smarts on SoCs are now allowing the sorts of remote access and management controls that PCs and dedicated signage players offer. It’s likely they’re not all as good as well-set up PCs, but they’re wildly better than the initial generations of smart displays.
The folks I’ve spoken with, generally, think the days of PC-driven signage are ending. There are, of course, lots of signage people who would say otherwise. But if signage operators can do what they need to do – without compromising on performance or controls – and shave off the cost of an external device, why wouldn’t they?